7 Mistakes Schools Make with Technology - Part 2

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Following on from Part 1 of the 7 mistakes schools make with technology, I'm back with mistakes 4-7 today. Let's jump right in.

4. A Lack of a Clear Vision

Are you buying technology because you have a clear vision for how it will improve your school or are you buying tech for tech’s sake? It is easy to say things like “technology will improve student engagement” but this isn’t actually the case unless it is used well. A clear vision should cover a 3 to 5 year period and include elements such as how the technology will integrate into the curriculum, a detailed training plan for all staff and how you will measure its impact.

Action without vision is only passing time, vision
without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world
— Nelson Mandela

Your school technology vision should be in a written document and agreed by the leadership team. Successful technology projects are the result of teamwork, and you can’t assign roles and responsibilities if the plan is in your head only.

Tips to develop a great technology vision for in school:

  • It should be led by the school leadership. Without leadership approval you won’t be able to get buy in across the school and develop momentum.

  • It should align with your school’s strategic goals. Often technology is managed as a completely separate project. Instead think about how it can align with the school’s goals or accelerate initiatives that are already running.
  • Think big. Technology is transformative, so don’t focus on doing things just 10% better. Start doing things 10x better! Google call this ‘moonshot thinking.’

 

5. A Lack of Change Management

There’s a misconception that because technology is ever present in our personal lives that we’ll be able to use it with equal ease in our professional lives. This is not the case and we only need look at this logically to see why. What does sending an email from a tablet and teaching Shakespeare have in common? Nothing. How does taking a photo from a smartphone prepare a staff to teach algebra? It doesn’t. Using technology to improve student progress requires pedagogical knowledge, and that is something that teachers do not learn without training and support.

The success of the change hinges not on the change
itself, but how that change is managed

Top 3 tips to improve your change management:

  1. School leadership must sponsor the change. It shows commitment and galvanises the project, making it a reality
  2. Communicate what is happening through the change and why it is happening. Too often technology is foisted onto teachers with little notice and this can drive a wedge between leaders and classroom staff. Communicate the plan and collectively come together.
  3. Have different levels of on-going support for teachers. Adults are no different to children when it comes to learning and one size doesn’t fit all.

 

6. A Lack of Teacher Training

UK schools provide very little in the way of continued professional development (CPD) for teachers and this is a major barrier to improvement. The average UK school spends just 0.5% of it’s budget on staff development. Canadian schools on the other hand invest 10% of their budget. The average UK teacher spends 960 hours each year teaching and receives just 30 hours of training and development. High performing education systems, such as Finland, Singapore, Canada and Shanghai, give teachers as much as 10x more training and development than here in the UK. The data tells the story. Our teachers are poorly supported.

Technology has provided schools with rich teacher development opportunities that mostly go unexploited. Schools can easily collaborate through cloud software, video conferencing removes geographical constraints and web based platforms offer accessible and low cost development portals.

The 3 types of support you should include in your staff development programme:

  1. Differentiated training session
  2. Working groups
  3. Self study and reflection

 

7. Buying Technology for Technology's Sake

Sometimes you need to ask whether your school needs to buy technology at all. We’ve come to think of technology as meaning ‘better’ but that’s not always the case. In many instances technology merely substitutes an existing task or activity in our lives, albeit often in the form of a shiny branded gadget. It’s much cooler to have an iPhone than it is to have an old Nokia with physical buttons, but if all we do is make phones calls then is the iPhone really any better? Are smart TVs any better than regular TVs? Will the new 12 megapixel digital camera take better photos than the current 10 megapixel model?

Be aware of ‘white knight’ syndrome, where technology is bought as a means to solve student progress or attainment. There’s no shortcut to improving teaching and learning.

If you’re not careful this kind of consumerism can affect the buying decisions in school, where features, rather than benefits drive the decision making. Some would say it has already begun as schools invest heavily in tablets, install interactive whiteboards and subscribe to an ever growing list of online teaching aides. How has any of this technology moved the knowledge transfer forward between a teacher and a student? You must be careful not to fall into the trap of buying technology for technology’s sake.

 

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Jay Ashcroft

Entrepreneur. Author. Speaker. Cofounder of LearnMaker